Eight Girls Taking Pictures by Whitney Otto
Scribner • $25 • ISBN 9781451682694
On sale November 6, 2012
It has been 10 years since Whitney Otto published her last book, A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity. Her perceptive and compelling new novel, Eight Girls Taking Pictures, is one of my favorite fall releases so far. It tells the stories of eight female photographers, all inspired by real-life women, who face the challenges of balancing their passion for their art with their roles as mothers, wives and lovers. Though these vignettes range throughout the first two-thirds of the 20th century, the tension between career and family is, unfortunately, timeless—as is Cymbeline’s 1910 insight into her future as a photographer after a conversation with her professor and lover, excerpted here.
[W]hen Julius Weiss made his remark about her work as a hobby, it wasn’t anything she hadn’t heard before. What was new was hearing it from him.
Julius sighed. “You should understand that I’m not asking you to find the thing in a subject that engages you—rather I am suggesting you see that subject in a whole new way—as a photographer, see it so that everything will interest you.” He said, “You can do this, Cymbeline.”
Here was the strange thing: She understood absolutely that he believed in her ability, yet his belief had the effect of suddenly making her doubt herself. And something else, too: she had a moment of hard clarity that her life, her woman’s life, would be full of choices—ordinary ones a man might not even see as choices but as “life”—that would constantly be canceling each other out.
What are you reading this week?